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Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-PLAY (7529)

Fax: 503-823-6007

1120 SW Fifth Ave., Suite 1302, Portland, OR 97204

1961-1980

1961
Crews moved and repairedPioneer Church in Sellwood Park, added a driving range to Eastmoreland Golf Course, constructed two baseball and two soccer fields in East Delta Park, and sandblasted and painted three swimming pools. One mile of trails was constructed in Forest Park and 27 new trail signs were placed. The Outdoor Education Activities Committee renamed itself the Portland Area Resource Educational Tour Committee and secured the active participation of Portland Public Schools as well as Multnomah County Schools. Leif Erickson Drive opened from September to November for scenic drives, serving approximately 15,000 automobiles.
 
Golf attendance increased and brought in 13% more income than the previous year. One weekly radio show, Portland Kaleidoscope, devoted half an hour each week to city-sponsored performing arts groups and individuals. Volunteers in the Recreation Division now numbered 22,000 and total attendance in all programs from sports to pools to community center activities soared to 10,000,000.
 
1962
The Columbus Day storm did serious damage throughout the park system. Playground equipment, fencing, lampposts, and backstops came down. In Forest Park, the storm decimated 75% of Upper Macleay Park and left 2,000,000 board feet of fallen timber blocking roads and trails throughout the park. The Arboretum was also hit hard, with 53 specimen trees destroyed and 400,000 board feet of overstory felled. Fortunately, the fallen timber could be sold to provide some funds for park cleanup. A new Trustee Labor Program equipped twenty workers who subsequently put in 7,600 hours working to clear trails and roads after the storm.
 
The Recreation Division joined with outside resources to create two elementary school programs, Wrestling Fitness and Little Miss Softball, to encourage and train young boys and girls in wrestling and in softball, respectively. The International Lawn Bowling tournament held in Seattle brought many players to Portland. One player claimed the Parks Bureau bowling greens "are the best greens we've played on in North America." With all the visitors and publicity, play subsequently increased by 25%. The Junior Museum began displaying artwork by students in Recreation art classes. The Weaving Center opened and began offering classes on the St. Johns Community Center property.
 
The World’s Fair in Seattle brought an inordinate amount of tourists to Portland and the zoo. Yet, for the Parks Bureau, perhaps the most exciting and publicized event of 1962 was the birth of Packy the elephant, the first birth of an elephant in a U.S. zoo in 44 years. Zoo personnel made 181 public appearances in connection with Packy’s birth.
 
1963
The Trustee Labor Program provided 12,000 hours of work to remove 4,000 trees and one million board feet of logs left over from the 1962 Columbus Day storm. The Portland Youth Project began this year and employed high school boys to reduce fire hazards in Forest Park. A special swim course was designed in conjunction with the Portland Retarded Children's Association to serve youth with visual, hearing, and physical disabilities. Japan's most well-known dancer, Kuni, gave a highly attended one-week workshop for children and adults. The Children's Zoo, begun in June 1962, still required some work, such as the completion of the mole tunnel, pony barn, and octopus-shaped aquarium. Between January and June, many penguins died from aspergillosis, a fungal infection. 700 acres of the former Vanport was acquired for West Delta Park, and work began on a speedway.
 
1964
Six more penguins died, but the problem seemed to be under control. The Children's Zoo opened and proved to be very popular. Construction began on the Zoological Society-sponsored Oregon Zoology Center, which would include an animal hospital, nursery, and limited research quarters. The Portland Tennis Association formed. The Community Music Center became accredited by the National Community Music Center Guild and acquired a new building because their facility at 5905 SE 43rd could not accommodate their rapidly increasing enrollment. Special recreation courses for people with disabilities proved very successful. The Parks Bureau acquired Pittock Mansion and the surrounding 46.24 acres. Initial construction began on the Japanese Garden near the zoo and Washington Park. A fire destroyed the Forestry Center. Holladay Park Fountain, designed by Jack Stuhl on a commission from the Lloyd Corporation and Pacific Power and Light, was erected in Holladay Park.
 
1965
Work began on Pittock Mansion, refurnishing the mansion and building comfort stations for visitors. The Oregon Chapter of the American Institute of Interior Designers decorated the Mansion for its opening on June 5, which coincided with Rose Festival activities. The zoo celebrated the birth of Topper the giraffe. Sixteen acres of primitive area in Hoyt Arboretum was clear-cut and replanted with specimens. A new pool building was built in Creston Park and the gym floors of all the community centers were restriped. The Montgomery Street Fire Station was transformed into the new Performing Arts Center. Two new organizations, the Civic Contemporary Dance Theatre, offering dance instruction and featuring a modern dance unit, and the non-profit Portland Opera Association, headed by Portland's Recreation Director, began this year. A new gymnastics program was also offered but received little attention, possibly because it coincided with the Little League season.
 
The Recreation Division received three federal grants: 1) a Work Study program providing $100,000 for college students to work as recreation directors; 2) nearly $27,000 for the Albina Summer Project which offered a full summer recreation program in Albina; and 3) a Neighborhood Youth Corps to improve the work attitudes and habits of boys and girls ages 16-21, with boys employed in parks and girls in community centers. The Neighborhood Youth Corps Project featured a counseling component and provided miscellaneous labor from July to October. In addition to federal grants, the Kennedy Foundation donated $3,000 for the development of day camps for children with mental retardation with the idea of preparing them for future mainstreaming into public schools.
 
1966
The Knott Street Community Center started a weightlifting program called Weight World and self-defense courses were added to Recreation Division programming. The Portland Actors Company was founded. Voters approved a ballot measure to provide $2.5 million to purchase the downtown stadium. The camp for children with disabilities added two all-day programs at University Park Community Center. Shorter, more specialized programs were also added in other locations, such as roller skating at Montavilla Community Center and swimming at Couch Pool.
 
1967
Renovation on the Portland Civic Stadium included work on the restrooms, bleachers, and gate signs. A new roof was built over the grandstand and construction began on the new team dressing rooms and a TV media room. Both the Japanese Garden and Progress Downs Golf Course (now called RedTail) officially opened. In May, an old firehouse at SW 14 and Montgomery became the new locale for the performing arts groups of the Parks Bureau - Civic Contemporary Dance Theatre, Portland Opera Association, and Portland Actors Company - and was named the Firehouse Theatre. A new art center also opened in the converted Carnegie Library Building at SW 2nd and Hooker, offering inexpensive classes for children and adults as well as a free Art Wednesday discussion group. The Neighborhood Youth Corps program continued to serve disaffected youth. Gymnastics competitions increased interest in the sport. The zoo started a docent program to provide free tours to school groups. Hospital facilities at the Zoology Center were completed.
 
Race riots shook Albina during the summer, the first of which began after a peaceful Black Arts and Culture Rally in Irving Park on July 30. As attendees to the event dispersed, a group of young African American men circled, trapped, and viciously assaulted Irving Park Recreation Director Ira Williamson. The 51-year-old Williamson suffered five broken teeth, mouth lacerations, and bruising of his face and ribs. Linzy Roy, an African American schoolteacher working in the Bureau's summer program in Irving Park, stepped in and saved Williamson. Irving Park and Knott Street Community Center were closed for two days while the violence continued with fire bombings and other lesser types of vandalism. On August 2, Parks Commissioner Francis Ivancie became Portland's first elected official to "go into Albina and talk with the people." He went to the park and center and spoke to many residents about what the Parks Bureau could do to improve recreational offerings in Albina.
 
1968
A swimming pool was built at the Knott Street Community Center. The Civic Stadium got new ticket booths. Many new restrooms and picnic shelters were built throughout the park system. In Delta Park, both an 18-hole golf course and a 1/4-mile drag racing strip were in the initial stages of development. The Japanese Garden had many improvements: planting of a moss garden, installation of bamboo fencing, placement of the Englehart Memorial Stone, and dedication of the Tea House.
 
Governor Tom McCall reinvigorated an idea, which had been attempted several times in the past, to replace Harbor Drive with a park along the west side of the Willamette River waterfront, and the Portland Planning Commission released a Downtown Waterfront Plan. Commissioner Ivancie sponsored and helped pass an ordinance establishing a midnight-to-dawn curfew in the parks to cut back on crime and vandalism, but also partially in response to the growing fear of a "hippie invasion."
 
The Recreation Division began working with Portland Community College to offer a two-year program in Recreation that included courses in Special Education and Physical Education. Community centers were still open only during the week, yet demand suggested a need for weekend hours as well. Despite many volunteers and grants, the Parks Bureau did not have the necessary funds to increase center hours.
 
1969
The Sellwood-Moreland Improvement League (SMILE) legally contracted with the Parks Bureau to manage Oaks Pioneer Church, making arrangements for the many weddings held there during the year. The Gold Award (now Gold Medal) Garden, containing rose varieties that had won City of Portland awards, was constructed in the International Rose Test Garden to commemorate 50 years of rose awards in Portland. In February, the Bureau purchased seven more acres of waterfront on the west side and a 50-acre parcel of riverfront on the east side between SE Holgate and Ramona (now part of Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge).
 
As part of the effort to improve offerings for African Americans, the Model Cities Citizens Planning Board approved a $134,000 improvement plan for the Northeast funded by a HUD grant. The plan included: comfort stations and a shelter, new play equipment, and tennis court lights in Alberta Park; irrigation, play areas and equipment, and a wading pool in Dawson Park; and an aluminum swim tank in Woodlawn Park. HUD funding also provided $15,000 to help purchase properties for widening Columbia Boulevard and developing a park strip between Kenton Park and Chautauqua Boulevard. In March, a two-block park opened in the Albina district to honor physician and civic leader Denorval Unthank; the park had been developed under the recommendation of the Albina Neighborhood Improvement Committee and Mayor Terry Schrunk.
 
1970
Dale Christiansen became the new Superintendent. The Children’s Museum was expanding rapidly, and Truckin', an experimental summer program to attract mid-teens, began this year with a painted truck visiting two parks per day with supplies for "do-it-yourself" fun - ropes, tires, plastic sheeting, canvas, parachutes, paint, and a portable geodetic dome. Other new summer activities included wilderness survival, boxing, and weightlifting camps. Special Olympics events, staffed mainly by volunteers and funded through paper and bottle drives, were well-attended. The Neighborhood Youth Corps program improved by adding inexpensive health tests and services as well as a driver’s education course for enrollees. Pittock Mansion still needed much refurnishing and the Parks Bureau was attempting to purchase the original Steinway piano and other original items from the home. The trail from Pittock Mansion to Hoyt Arboretum was completed.
 
1971
In the most impressive of many efforts to publicize the Mansion, LaNita Anderson filmed a half-hour Pittock Mansion Special which aired on KGW-TV. Workers installed artificial turf in the stadium, making it suitable for play year-round. Delta Raceway hosted the National Hot Rod Association Meet and the National Go-Carts Race. In May, the West Delta Park Golf Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones to accommodate large spectator crowds, opened. The waterfall-like Ira Keller Civic Theatre Forecourt Fountain designed by Angela Danadjieva was completed. The community centers were finally open six days a week, 10:00am-10:00pm. The Recreation Division officially split up into three units: Sports, Cultural Centers, and Community Centers. Participation in sports programs doubled, creating a manpower shortage that was filled to some degree by various federal programs such as STEP, Work/Study, Neighborhood Youth Corps, and PEP.
 
1972
Schools closed early in 1972 because of financial difficulties, so the Parks Bureau had to provide activities for six weeks between the closure and the regular summer programs. Plans began for a new park in North Portland under the St. Johns Bridge, which became Cathedral Park. The Portland Rose Festival Association (PRFA) loaned $100,000 to improve the Portland International Raceway (PIR) with a nearly new road racecourse and a 1/4-mile drag strip; revenue from the raceway would go to the PRFA until the debt was paid off. The World Championship Series drag race held at PIR brought national recognition to Portland and its racetrack.
 
1973
The Portland Tennis Center was built this year. The Oregon Parks Foundation helped the Parks Bureau gain the donation of the J.R. Leach estate, formerly owned by famous botanist Lilla Leach, with the plan that it would be maintained as a botanical garden. But, perhaps the most important changes this year were organizational. The Recreation Division divided the city into three recreation areas - Southeast, Northeast, and North & West - to facilitate operations. Now, District Supervisors were assigned to manage the various districts underneath the three Recreation Directors for Sports, Cultural Centers, and Community Centers. A Director of Golf position was also created. Self-sustaining recreation programs, which charged fees to participants, were initiated. A mission statement and goals were drafted. The budget this year was $7.1 million and the Bureau owned 7,500 acres of parkland. Donald Card Sloan, a Royal Rosarian Prime Minister, with aid from the Portland Rose Society, the Sloan Foundation, the City of Portland, and the U.S. government, donated A Fountain For A Rose located in O'Bryant Square. The bandstand in Peninsula Park, constructed in 1913, was designated a Portland Historical Landmark.
 
1974
The 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan was developed. It defined capital improvements as those that cost more than $5,000; had a life expectancy of more than 10 years; and added to the City's fixed assets. Such improvements would be paid for out of the General Fund at approximately $1 million per year. Community groups were consulted in devising the plan and were invited to sit in on the Budget Task Force to aid in prioritizing.
 
The Beach Memorial Fountain, donated by the family of Frank L. Beach who popularized the Portland moniker "City of Roses," was constructed and placed in the upper level of the International Rose Test Garden. Harbor Drive was closed and demolition began in preparation for a waterfront park. Because of complaints from citizens living near the park, as well as increased crime and vandalism, the Parks Bureau closed the roads at Mt. Tabor Park from 8:00pm-5:00am.
 
1975
Several improvement proposals were made this year, including 19 new ballfields, 27 picnic shelters, 19 comfort stations, 45 tennis courts, 7 new pools, 7 community centers, a nature interpretive center at Oaks Bottom, an arts cultural center, an Olympic standard aquatics center, a plant conservatory, a revenue-generating tennis center, 10 neighborhood parks, and a street tree program. Not all of these plans came to fruition. Several means of financing were considered, such as a park tax levy, federal and state Grant-in-Aid funds, and revenue-producing bonds.
 
Community gardens, public space rented to citizens for a nominal fee to grow food or flowers, began this year and the program became an immediate success. Improvements to Oaks Pioneer Church included new carpets, chandeliers, a new organ, and refinished pews. After the evening closure of Mt. Tabor Park roads, troublemakers began to plague Rocky Butte. Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputies patrolled the park and enforced regular closures.
 
1976
Robert G. Gustafson became the Acting Superintendent when Dale Christiansen resigned his post in the fall to work as a state parks and recreation director in Idaho. After years of trying to gain control of the street trees, the Parks Bureau initiated the Street Tree Program and formed a Street & Park Tree Division responsible for answering questions from the public, providing lectures on tree care and planting, and assisting with the planting, pruning, inspection, diagnosis, and general care of trees on public rights-of-way. In January, a tree research project started in East Delta Park "to familiarize local landscape architects, nurserymen, growers, and gardeners with the growing habits, shape, and form" of street and park trees. Alex Wynstra, Park Forester, oversaw the operation of this new City Nursery. Portions of Waterfront Park were completed; Neighborfair and some Rose Festival activities were held in the park. Federal funds were granted to help complete work on restrooms and landscaping in Cathedral Park and to develop Couch Park. Three local artists (Eric Jensen, William Moore, and Brent Jenkins) were selected to sculpt two 14-foot pillars each to support a playground shelter in Couch Park. A new expenditure tracking system by activity area facilitated future budget preparation and internal administrative control features, which greatly pleased Bureau management: "Only one bureau in the City came closer to expending their final 1975-76 appropriation (99.3%) without incurring over-expenditures."
 
1977
Douglas Bridges, previously the Parks and Recreation Director for Clark County, Washington, became the new Superintendent. His plans included a revival of the 40-Mile Loop Plan for which he ordered schematic plans specifically for the development of the Columbia Slough and Marquam portions of the trail. The Parks Bureau began to receive numerous requests this year for a skateboard park. Portland was featured and largely praised in Open Spaces, the Life of American Cities by August Heckscher, former Parks Commissioner of New York City. In conjunction with the Friends of Marquam Nature Park in April, the Bureau purchased .25 acre on SW Broadway Drive near Davenport; this was the first piece of land bought for the park. More problems with vandalism and crime occurred this year in Council Crest Park, and an evening road closure was enacted as had been with Rocky Butte and Mt. Tabor Park. Unfortunately, it was not strictly enforced at first. Only after several nearby residents were assaulted did police begin to enforce the closure.
 
In November, Commissioner Mildred Schwab and the Parks Bureau released a 6-year proposal to construct five new swimming pools, eight new recreational facilities, and a new performing arts center, and to make miscellaneous improvements such as remodeling the Children’s Museum. The plan also included funds for regional parks planning as well as for beginning the 40 Mile Loop, part of a plan that had been recommended in the Olmsted Report seventy years earlier. They proposed to finance the plan with a new property tax levy, to be voted on in the May 1978 primary election, augmented by federal and other funds.
 
1978
Funded by the F.L. Beach family, an information kiosk and elevated miniature rose beds were constructed at the main entrance to the International Rose Test Garden. The Rose Petal fountain was installed in Park 51, a street landscape area at SE 106 and Stark; it shoots three spouts of recycled water over a formation of rocks. Although this was a county park at the time, it was eventually transferred to the City. Downtown Waterfront Park was officially completed and dedicated in July, gaining instant popularity. The May ballot contained a $19.7 million park levy which would have afforded Portland five new indoor pools, three new community centers, and a new performing arts education center, among other items; unfortunately, the measure failed. Most top officials claimed they would not endorse another park levy for another two years; however, a federal grant of $500,000 covered some needed improvements in North Portland.
 
Park restrooms increasingly became targets of vandalism and locales of odious behavior. 40% of vandalism in parks occurred in restrooms. In November, Parks Bureau maintenance workers suggested closing restrooms in several trouble spots through March for the winter season when fewer people used the parks. Thirty park restrooms were closed, including those at Grant and Brooklyn Parks where neighbors had complained of undesirable activity around the restrooms, and those that were bad problem areas for vandalism ­- Kenilworth, Clinton, Arbor Lodge, Wellington, and Glenhaven Parks. Surprisingly, no one called the Bureau to complain about the closures.
 
1979
The Portland Development Commission installed a bronze sculpture and fountain by Manuel Izquierdo in Pettygrove Park. Severe cold and ice during the winter resulted in extremely limited tree plantings, so the Forestry Division spent the end of 1979 planting 10,000 trees of 77 different varieties around the city using trees which had been tested in the City Nursery. Compost for the nursery and for plantings was provided by leaves from Public Works, wood chips from city work crews, and manure from city stables on Marine Drive. Arlington Heights residents were continually troubled by vandalism, noise, traffic congestion, and a lack of parking, which they blamed on the heavy auto traffic through Washington Park. They wanted the park closed to auto traffic after hours as the Parks Bureau had previously done with Mt. Tabor, Council Crest, and Rocky Butte. Superintendent Bridges and Commissioner Schwab suggested that nighttime programming and a redesign of the park might eliminate the need for closure. Such programming at Mt. Tabor Park had helped decrease similar problems in that area.
 
1980
Superintendent Bridges resigned on January 2, and some debate arose over why he was leaving. Many believed he was forced to resign by Mildred Schwab's office because his aggressive approach to development and fundraising was considered somewhat controversial. Others felt he had not been a competent manager despite his excellent developments. Whatever the case, on May 5, William V. Owens, who had served as the Recreation Director since 1972, became the new Superintendent. After eight years of planning and fundraising, the 18-acre, disabled-accessible Cathedral Park opened in May. In November, a much-needed basketball court opened in the North Park Blocks.
 
The tennis courts and parking lots in Washington Park were overcrowded and its roads, irrigation system, and buildings were all in poor condition. Jones & Jones Consultants joined with staff from various city agencies as well as concerned citizens to create a master plan, which was submitted in March and approved. The first recommendation was to create a Park Manager position to coordinate and facilitate communication between the many private agencies and governmental bureaus responsible for different parts of the park. Other recommended changes included more parking, more direct and clearly marked roadways, better disabled access, improved irrigation and Rose Garden curation space, as well as more promotion of the Arboretum. Other plans included a new, larger amphitheatre located north of the Forestry Center, a potential inter-park transit system, and a recreation area on Sherwood Way with picnic shelters, restrooms, a tennis court, and a playfield.
 
On July 21, police were called in to control and disperse 200 youth fighting and throwing bottles in Alberta Park. The incident sparked concern over park safety, and Commissioner Charles Jordan discussed the problem with residents. The talks resulted in the creation of the Youth Outreach Program, organized by the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission and funded by the City, which supplied twelve youth ages 18-24, trained in crisis intervention, to defuse racial tensions and park disturbances during the summer months in various North and Northeast neighborhood parks, including Alberta, Laurelhurst, and Peninsula Parks.